Ketchum PR brought together a handful of thinkers and doers to talk about the ever-evolving nature of web culture and social media’s influence on consumer-brand relations.
Ketchum’s event last Friday, ‘Respect the Internet,’ articulated ideas regarding transformations in web culture and the role of brands in online conversations. Social media was the central focus of the panels, and speakers presented useful metaphors, progressive debates, and insights from various perspectives to understand what the web means for digital natives as well as non-tech savvy users.
Ethical Insight: Ads vs. Web Culture
Most panels dealt heavily with this debate. While advertising certainly drives a creative economy, brands on the Internet need to focus on benefiting organic digital communities. This point of view requires marketers to support what is already happening naturally on the internet, not just creating new “happenings.”
Furthermore, social media reminds us of the civic duty involved in shaping the Internet with our feedback. Brands can get away with writing on people’s Facebook walls. But the “creepiness factor” of this can create a back-lash if a brand does not establish methods to generate personable communication tactics, without generating discomfort in their loyalty base.
Anthropological Insight: Who Creates Meaning?
A highlight in this discussion were the comments of Meetup founder, Scott Heiferman, in his debate with anthropologist Grant Mcracken. The conversation was an attempt to conceptually understand the role of marketers in meaning creation. They juxtaposed various brands to pinpoint the best models for localized web businesses, and came to the conclusion that the Internet is about connected people, not connected computers. For example, while Nike was previously able to re-define people’s relationship to their health and bodies, today it would have trouble wielding such a profound influence without supporting virtual communities and enabling specific virtual spaces in which people could connect, regardless of whether or not they own Nike shoes.
Data Mining Insight: Peak Data and Web Ecology
Tim Wang insisted on the “ecological collection and use of data.” He works in a legal research and development firm that seeks to experiment with large scale automation and data mining. Tim focused on the central role of data in legitimizing the Internet’s viability as a media channel. His talk elaborated on how advertising is the foundation bed of most of the Internet, so it has to be done exceptionally responsibly, especially when it comes to the way it employs data management tools.
It’s not just about the quantity of data gathered, but the insights you glean from them before people start to get uncomfortable. Gaining insights from the least amount of data will enable advertisers to get better, and more honest results.
Viral Lift Insight: Comparing the “Big Three”
According the the insights gained in this discussion, the same user will behave completely differently on the dominant platforms of Google, Facebook, and Twitter.
Buzzfeed’s Jonah Peretti has been investigating why certain things on the internet go viral and why others don’t, for many years. His company tracks how media spreads and how to garner viral metric lifts. His talk debunked some viral content development myths and went on to illustrate the existing differences between The Big Three:
- Google is what you’re looking for when no one is looking; how to’s and entertainment related searches trend quickly.
- Facebook is a public space; it’s what you want your friends to know about (politics, humor, social causes, cool stuff, charity).
- Twitter is content that you’re proud of; more top-down, since its influences include a culturally savvy audience, celebrities, techies, and generally smart people, or perhaps people trying to be funny.
Based on these differences, brands can anticipate the type of content that is likely to be shared. It’s not simply about creating something of quality or being entertaining or useful; it’s all about respecting and understanding the digital eco-system one is entering.
Metaphoric Insight: The Internet is a City
@motherboardtv’s Alex Pasternak, offered a valuable metaphor when he compared the internet to the city. Taking the urbanist’s approach to the Internet he compared websites to buildings, and commented on how the actual form of the Internet is transformative: new things are created and then torn down. As well, Pasternak believes that being a “good citizen” and the growing importance of being constructive, rather than over-critical, is the responsibility of everyone on the Internet whether it is a person or a brand.
To see the full program click here.